Essentialism: Creating Value through Intention

The Value of Essentialism for Healthcare Executives

I often hear clients exclaim, “We lack execution.”  Ideas are generated; cross-functional teams are brought together, and then, nothing.  Meetings turn into more meetings without clear purpose or direction.  In an endless cycle to accomplish more, individuals and teams end up spread between meetings with little time left to move forward.

In his book, How the Mighty Fall, Jim Collins described this phenomenon as “the undisciplined pursuit of more” and found that this lack of focus was one of the key reasons for business failure.

Greg McKeown, author of Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, explains how the situation occurs.  The four phases he identifies as the paradox of success are:

  • Phase 1: When we really have clarity of purpose, it enables us to succeed at our endeavor.
  • Phase 2: When we have success, we gain a reputation as a “go to” person. We become “good old [insert name],” who is always there when you need him, and we are presented with increased options and opportunities.
  • Phase 3: When we have increased options and opportunities, which is actually code for demands upon our time and energies, it leads to diffused efforts. We get spread thinner and thinner.
  • Phase 4: We become distracted from what would otherwise be our highest level of contribution. The effect of our success has been to undermine the very clarity that led to our success in the first place.

The basic value proposition of Essentialism is by giving yourself and your team members permission to stop trying to do it all, to stop saying yes to everyone, each individual is able to make the highest contribution towards the things that really matter.

The most successful healthcare leaders are able to drive action through focused execution, aligning strategy with professional priorities and reinforced expectations.  Laura Vanderkam offers some great strategies on How to Get More Done by Having Less to Do.

Shifting your focus from quantity to quality of work produced takes practice and a deep commitment to change.  Leading with intention means setting boundaries and constantly prioritizing tasks based on importance and urgency.  I’ve found the Eisenhower Box to be a tried a true method for managing activities.

Applying the foundations of project management, such as sprint planning sessions and setting goals based on meaningful results can be useful tools to drive focus across teams, but the greatest value will be produced when a leader embodies the characteristics that minimize low-priority actions and unnecessary work.

Here are some resources that can help you can lead with intention and focus both personally and professionally.